Last night I went to a small Berlin theatre to see a one-woman play called Blonde Poison.
It tells the story of Stella Goldschlag, a German woman who collaborated with the Nazis to send hundreds, if not thousands of people to their deaths.
Using a poisonous cocktail of good looks and charm, she infiltrated hiding places and revealed them to the Gestapo.
Ferocious in her pursuit of victims, she was a dream come true for the Führer and his followers.
Blue-eyed and blonde, she epitomized the Aryan ideal.
Except for one thing.
She was Jewish.
Yes, you read that right.
Stella Goldschlag was a Jewish woman who embodied Nazi terror.
It’s an uncomfortable thing to write. Especially here in Germany, where the horrors inflicted on six million Jews are omnipresent – carved, literally, into the pavements and our consciousness.
The notion of a Jewish woman engineering the brutal deaths of her own people is something we might prefer not to think about.
Except, of course, that we must.
Because whether you consider her a monster, a victim of one, or something in between, Stella Goldschlag was a real person.
And real people do grotesque things. Most of the time, without considering themselves vile.
In the production I saw at the Brotfabrik, Stella Goldschlag is brilliantly portrayed by Dulcie Smart as an old woman waiting for a journalist to come and interview her.
As she paces nervously about the stage, counting down the minutes until she can put the coffee on, we witness an extraordinary pyschological range, which reveals not only the intelligence but also the empathy of the actress, who flits seamlessly from one state of heightened emotion to the next.
We see the girlish traces of vanity and vivaciousness and the suggestion of how they could have morphed into tools of treachery and deceit.
The flickers of innocence and pride as she recalls the way her father used to call her “Pünktchen” – and tell her she was destined to become a star.
We learn that Stella Goldschlag continued to betray Jews even after her parents were murdered at Auschwitz.
We watch in horror as her thoughts advance unrestrained.
She speaks of the mortification which must be experienced by those who get spinach stuck in their teeth. To tell them or not to? That is the question.
She is proud of her clean, white smile and examines it frequently in the mirror.
Her anti-Semitism is expressed in the disgust she has for the hooked noses and black hair of her fellow Jews.
Is she mad or bad or both, we wonder.
A victim or an engine of a totalitarian regime?
You will leave the theatre with an unsettled feeling in the pit of your stomach.
It’s the sting of a painful truth.
Despite our enormous appetite for it, there is no such thing as a single story.
No one embodiment of monstrosity.
No defined point at which democracy erodes.
No real wisdom that can fit into 142 characters or less.
We may be closer to the truth in the theatre than on Twitter.
But even then, the sign of a good production is one that reminds us that in a functioning democracy, the absolute truth is allowed to elude us.